Friday, December 14, 2007

Sea Creatures vs. Machines

"Eight Arms To Hold You""Plight Of The (Buick) Skylark"

JAMES - two new posters. the requests came in at the same time, so i decided to do them at the same time and integrate them somehow. a very consistant theme in alot of my stuff is water and the sea, so i went with that - and added lots of shredded metal!
and the shows look to be good ones, too, - from NY to NC. both posters are the usual: #2 brush, black india ink ('black star' matte), Tachikawa No.99 nib (a fresh one), some microns, some white paint (my own secret blend), and a toothbrush for the splatter. on bristol paper, vellum finish. the octopus poster had an extra step, since i did a very detailed sketch first, then lightboxed it to a clean pencil drawing (see below). the sharkie was all done on one sheet.

just finished another two posters - this time color. not quite as visually integrated, but they look cool together. i'll post those in a day or two.

Monday, December 3, 2007

And How Was Your Day?

JAMES - a late-nite release to the sketchbook, from yesterday. acrylic, colored pencil, and india ink on paper.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Sharp Dressed Man

JAMES - looks like Tom and I are on the same wavelength this month....
when i was last in NY, i mentioned to Tom how the next cover is gonna be about 'bagpipers' - and he says, "oh wow, so you're probably gonna do something cool with the plaids, huh?" actually, i had a couple of vague ideas, and i hadn't even though of playing up the plaid. thanks tom!

so 4 sketches came pretty easily, all using the plaid pattern - some making it very prominent, others just as a minor element. from the first time i saw his work in '92 or '93, i was heavily influenced by the style of Evan Dorkin - and one of the first techniques of his that i copped was how he would draw patterns (plaids, etc) into his characters' clothes (here's a good example - kinda similar to how Tom did the shirt pattern in the previous post). so i figured to make that technique a part of this cover. i also wanted to use actual plaid - for the sake of the sketches, i just downloaded some patterns - but the plan for the final cover was to use real plaid somehow.
the first three sketches are pretty cool, in keeping consistant with previous submitted sketches. i especially liked the first one, which would have been a really detailed illustration amidst the sea of plaid. but i also consistantly try to include a sketch that's a little different - more graphic design oriented or so. and this time they actually chose that last sketch for the cover. so i was psyched to flex some other muscles.

laid it out with simple pencil lines, with the help of a ruler and an enlarged copy of the original sketch. then onto painting. i knew that besides the pattern of the plaid, i wanted texture to be a big part of this piece. so i used a 'blended fibers texture gel' as a medium under the color for the hairy parts of the painting (the hat, pouch, rope, socks). and then i also used some kind of glue called 'mod-podge' over the yellow paint on the left side of the painting to greate a more fluid texture to contrast the clumpy texture of the hairy parts. i also made sure to be heavy handed with the layers of paint for the skin parts to show off the brush strokes.

once into photoshop, i did a little color adjusting, as well as contrast adjustments to show off the texture as best as possible. then i scanned one of my many plaid cowboy shirts - and did alot of color adjusting to get it to be mostly red & green. i cut out all the 'red' parts of the painting and put the plaid shirt in its place. not only did the scanned shirt bring in the pattern of plaid, but it also contributed another texture - the weave of the shirt. then i got really crazy and started airbrushing drop shadows all over the place to give it more depth and make it look more like a photo of a collage.
the only bummer is that the final photoshop file with all the little pieces and layers became corrupted in a transfer to my hard drive, so i can't go back and take the logo out or do anything else to it. oh well. next month: speech-makers? hmmmmmm....

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Figure Drawing

JAMES - thank god for figure drawing. and even though i probably could be doing more of it, every Monday at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts my arms are allowed to be as free and flowing as they want - no second and third guessing, and lots of experimenting, mixed with applying new techniques i'm becoming comfortable with. these are my favorite drawings from some recent Monday nights. most of them are a mix of charcoal, my trusty Pentel brush-pen, a few grey and black markers, and these Caran D'Ache water soluable crayons that i'm really starting to LOVE.

Sept. 24, "Brett", 15 min each

Sept. 24, "Brett", 20 min each

Oct. 1, "Meagan", 15 min / 10 min

Oct. 1, "Meagan", 15 min / 20 min

Oct. 29, "Ingrid", 10 min / 19 min

Oct. 29, "Ingrid", 20 min / 16 min

Nov. 12, "Meagan", 10 min each

Nov. 12, "Meagan", 20 min each

Sunday, November 11, 2007

N.Y. Visit - part two

JAMES - another great trip back home, and i brought back some souveniers courtesey of my sketchbook and my camera. above are some sketches done at Prospect Park, hangin with Tom and Stephanie (Steph's hood got into the first sketch).

i also got to see my buddy Nate (, and we caught up on life and art. Nate's an incredible animator and designer, check out his site. anyway, on the bumpy train ride home i did a page of my night, both waiting for Nate at Union Square and of our conversation at the diner.

Tom sketching at Prospect Park. whoop whoop.

Hank and I at Washington Square watching Tom's second favorite all-brass street band.

the NYC Marathon also ripped thru Bay Ridge, and i woke up early and snapped some nice shots.

apparently there was some kind of hurrican swirling around Long Island, so the sky over the Verrazanno in Brooklyn was pretty nasty looking.

by the way, Tom is the devil.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


JAMES - another month, another Bold Life cover. this time focusing on the upcoming Asheville Film Festival (get it? 'focusing', haha). it was easy to sink into this one - film and movies brings up alot of imagery, so away i go with some sketches.

i think the second one woulda been really cool, but REALLY hard. the idea was that each film strip would show a sequence of three types of films - like romance, action, & western, or something like that. it woulda been fun since i coulda taken actual scenes from actual movies and altered them slightly. but the first one is the one they chose. and for impact, it's probably the best option.

since the cover was basically a landscape with no figures in it, i decided to try some new tricks with the original drawing so that i can do neat tricks in photoshop. so i drew it out loose, and lightboxed it to a fresh sheet with clean lines (especially for the many folds of film). i decided to only ink the "Asheville" sign, the camera, and the reels on the bottom. otherwise the clouds, film strips, and light beams would remain pencil. for the film, i wanted to keep the lines soft (i used mostly a 6B pencil) so that the outlines would remain somewhat translucent, like real film. for the clouds and light beams, i didn't want actual outlines in the final illustration, so they acted as guides for future photoshop effects (those were with a light, hard lead - 2H i think).

i took as much advantage of shadows within the film and the shadow casting from the camera to create depth. and the clouds were really fun to do - mostly airbrush and motion blur effects. and to keep it as closely authentic as possible to the real "Hollywood" sign, i created a vector image of the 'fence' behind each letter holding it up, and added it in there. the issues were just delivered, but it looks like the printer rushed it and didn't set the levels correctly - there's a tiny green tint to the whole issue. oh well.
next month: bagpipes.
by the way, my latest B&W and Halloween posters are up on my site, if you haven't seen them:

Saturday, October 27, 2007


JAMES - recently cleaning up some old files, and digging up even older ones, i found the original sketches i used to design my tatoos. it's funny how primitive they are (the sketches not the concepts), and how differently i would approach such a project today. i figure they're almost 7 years old by now, and the ink in my left arm is about 6 years old. kinda cool finding these now, as i'm (finally!) planning on finishing the damn thing.
so i think the final drawing used to stencil my actual ink is lost forever - i left it with the tatoo artist, and god knows where she is. but the top sketch was the accompanying color map i gave her so she'd know the basic colors i wanted to fill within the lines. pretty crude marker and crayon on notebook paper.

most of the different parts and themes of the sleeve were drawn separately over a two year period, in various notebooks and sketch pads. once i chose the best parts, i tied them all into one concept and traced them together.

of course it all started with the flames, and this is the actual drawing that's on the bottom of the sleeve. james FLAMES forever, baby.

the gears were done in illustrator, since drawing a ton of circles freehand, or even with a protrator, at the time freaked me out. i originally made the gears about a year earlier for the tattoo around my right arm, and just expanded on it to fill in spaces underneath the phoenix and lightening bolt dude on my left arm.
i can't wait to eventually get started finishing the left arm, and i'm starting to come up with some embellishments to add to it. hopefully around January.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


JAMES - i'm just really not that psyched with this month's cover. it's good enough i guess, and i was really into it as i was illustrating it, but when it came time to add the photo, it became kinda lackluster. it was a tough assignment, because it had to be about this 'ghost hunter' guy in Asheville, but instead of me just doing a full-on illustration, the publishers wanted me to incorporate a photo. except the photo wasn't given to me until the last minute, and making an exciting composition within the limitations of the photo was real HARD. not to mention the deadline was quickly approaching.

so i came up with the best idea i could, and quickly got to work. first, clean and detailed pencils with minor watercolor washes. then a layer of matte medium, and then more watercolor around the ghosts with charcoal and some acrylic.

tightened it up with red ink lines and more matte medium, then white paint to spook out the ghosts.

once in photoshop, i did alot of color adjusting to get it where i wanted and added that photo - which was tough to cut out and place in my painting. i slapped the logo on and showed it to the folks at the office. the first reaction was "Cool!", then another couple of reactions were like "Oh, look - sperms!"
well, shit, i guess i didn't notice THAT. so back to photoshop for some emergency color adjusting. i have to say the ghosts look cool to me, but as a cover and as a compostion, i just don't think it's effective or clear. striking, yes. good, no. oh well, next month should be alittle easier, since i already know the cover story (the first time i have it so early) so i'll get started on sketches this week. i have a little redeeming to do.